Category - Q&A

Q&A: How to stop my dog from barking at bedtime?

Hello…My dog, who is now 1-1/2 has started barking at bedtime. In the past, we have let her sleep on her dog bed downstairs and we retire to the second floor. This worked until 1 month ago when she started barking at the gate at the bottom of the stairs. This can go on for an hour. What should I do? ~Mary T.

It sounds like you’re in a noisy puppy predicament! Before I get into the explanations, let me say barking is as natural for a dog as yelling for us.

So you say your 1.5-year-old puppy (older puppy) has just begun barking, where she hadn’t before. I’ve never raised a young pup that would bark incessantly either; not until they reached young adulthood. It almost seems they begin barking with confidence! If you’re looking at a behavioral training approach, you’ll have to understand why she is barking exactly.

Possibility One: Barking can become a learned behavior if your pup figures out she will eventually get what she wants. There is little difference between a puppy barking at the gate downstairs for an hour and a puppy whining inside her crate for an hour because she doesn’t like the confinement- if that is the reason.

This is only one possible answer, but the training method would involve ignoring her continuously until eventually she figures barking is useless; she won’t get what she wants. If this is the case, someone would have likely given in and let her upstairs at one point.

Possibility Two: She is in some sort of physical pain, or frightened about something at night. She may become extra anxious at night when alone, while your company provides comfort. Increased anxiety in the evenings or when secluded tends to be more common in aging dogs, but consider speaking with your veterinarian next checkup just to rule out any possible medical causes.

Your vet might suggest medication to assist her sleeping, but try to exhaust all other avenues before going that route with a puppy.

Possibility Three: Barking, or increased alertness, is a very common trait in her breed (depending on her breed). For example, Shetland Sheepdogs, several Collies, or Great Pyrenees were selectively bred for their alertness. Most owners will tell you they will bark at absolutely anything unusual they don’t like. Your girl might also have a very high prey drive, although this might not be your case if she just barks at the stairwell.

The solution here would be to gently acknowledge any distraction (while trying to limit any possible distractions), showing your girl you have everything in control, you’re perfectly calm, and there is nothing to worry about. I can’t guarantee she will stop if this is the reason.

My Advice:
Without knowing your dog or particular situation, it sounds like you just need to remain calm and ignore her (or try to) until she learns she can’t get what she wants by barking. Don’t acknowledge it, and eventually, the barking should stop as she gains comfort in her solitude.

You might also compromise, and make room for her crate (assuming you’ve crate trained her) in your bedroom. If you do that, it may be even more difficult to get her to stay downstairs alone.

Q&A: Help! Our dog doesn’t get the “doggie doorbell”!

Our Shichon ( Shih-tzu/Bichon mix) has been using Paws2Go ( basically a doorbell to say she needs to go to the bathroom) for a couple of weeks now. She is 3 months old. We have followed the training guide , and have her to the point she presses it when we say the cue word potty ,but it seems she only wants to press it when we are right next to her. We have a 4 story town-home so she needs to go down a flight of stairs to press it by the front door. We aren’t sure if she’s scared to go down to the foyer ( she’s a Velcro dog – won’t leave us) and also fear she isn’t associating it with going to the bathroom since she has peed in the foyer right before we are going out. I’m not sure if we should keep it down in the foyer or put It on the main level where she is more comfortable .We can’t figure out what’s not going right!   ~Mary

Hi Mary, glad that you wrote in to us. It seems like you have a fairly common problem at your hand. If I am reading it correctly, you have having issues with the following three points:

Getting your dog to be trained using the Paws2Go device

Unsure if the dog is scared to go down to the foyer

Dog peeing in the foyer

It does look like the puppy is not properly house trained yet. There are several reasons why the dog is still peeing around the house. There are plenty guides that you can find online. Try reading a guide from here.

As for the device itself, it is quite common for owners to have issues when trying to get the dog to get accustomed to it. If you follow the guide closely, you will be able to get the dog to respond correctly. But given that you mentioned the dog only press it when you are right next to her, this could be a result of you doing things wrongly, unknowingly. You can try to restart the training process and get the dog to respond as per what you wanted.

As for the issue about your dog wanting to head down to the foyer, we will recommend that you restrict the dog’s movement as their body is still trying to develop the muscles it needs to function. Going down the flight of stairs might be detrimental to the developmental process.

For starters, we recommend you to carry the dog down at fixed timings in the day to conduct the training. At least you will be limiting the amount of variables for the dog to associate itself with. Also, since the puppy is still young, try not to be too harsh on her, eh. Show her more tender loving care during the training process, and it can help speed up the training too.

Hope the above helps!

Q&A: Why is my dog suddenly scared at the park?

Hello, I have a small dog who has somehow become scared when we run through the park. She is a small dog, and this never use to happen. I’m not sure of the cause. Is there something I can do? Thanks, Mary.

Hi Mary, thank you so much for dropping us this query. I understand the frustration and worry that you are feeling must be horrible, for you to drop us a message here does show how much your dog means to you.

While it is normal for some dogs to be scared or terrified when heading out, it will not be normal in your dog’s case since she used to love the runs till recently. You are somewhat right that is can be due to some scares around the vicinity, but there might be some underlying issues that might be causing the issue.

From your dog’s case, it could be a negative experience that she had when she ran in the forest. Also, did you check on your dog to see if she had suffered any injury? It is very possible that she is refusing to head out because she suffered an injury while out in the forest and that is causing her anxiety.

During this period of time, if your dog refuses to head out and tremble, you should not try to force them to head out, or try to carry the dog and place her in the forest as these will cause the furkid to develop a negative feeling about the place. Rather, you should find ways to desensitize her negative feelings towards the forest.

For starters, you could try to bring her out for regular walks right outside of your house. This does serve two purposes.

To observe for injury: you can check the way she is walking to see if she is limping or not.

To check for trauma: If the negative incident is causing the dog to tremble even during the normal walks, then it does require you to approach the problem differently. In the above two cases, if you notice that the dog is limping, or her gait is unusual, you should bring her to the vet immediately for attention as there is an underlying issue that is causing your dog to limp.

To address the trauma issue, the whole idea of bringing her out for walks around the vicinity of your house is to check if she is afraid of walking, or just afraid of walking in the forest. If your dog is ok with walking outside of the house, then we can more or less deduce that the root cause of the issue lies in the forest.

It is worthwhile to note, that if the anxiety or fear is cause by an external problem, then thankfully the issue can be solved. All you need to do is to show love and encouragement to the dog. While you should not be forcing them outdoors, you can slowly desensitize the situation for them. This means bringing her out for walks in the nearby parks and letting her run, albeit on a leash this time round so that she can enjoy the outdoors again. The whole idea of putting her on a leash is so that you can control her movements, since it can be a possibility that she could be injured or attacked by a wild animal during the runs in the forest.
Hope the above helps!

Why does my dog poop in the middle of the night?

I have a two year old yellow lab. He was sleeping through the night up until he was about 8 months old. Then suddenly he started needing to go out to poop in the middle of the night. He wakes us, immediately poops and goes right back to bed. I don’t want to ignore him, he clearly had to go out. He doesn’t have accidents in the house. I am wondering how to get him to make it through the night? We feed him breakfast at 7:30 am and dinner at 6 pm. He gets an evening walk around 7 pm and we take him out before bed at about 11 pm every night. Every once in a while he doesn’t need to go out and sleeps through the night – probably about 3 times a month, I haven’t noticed any difference about those days from the others. ~Susan

Well, the first thing you want to do is to develop a set schedule. You said this began at 8 months, so it has been over a year? Your lab is probably already very accustomed to going to the bathroom at night, so it may take some time to adjust, but adhere to your schedule. By gradually moving that nighttime break later towards the morning, little by little every night, your dog will adjust.

At eight months, your puppy was still growing and his bladder hadn’t fully developed. At two years old, your boy should be able to hold his bladder throughout the night. Again, he may just be accustomed to this schedule that allowed nighttime breaks and take time to adjust.

If you decide to begin feeding your pet once a day, do it in the mornings. If you feed twice a day, try mornings and afternoons, maybe as soon as you get home from work, or earlier in the afternoon if you can. You can also consider a smaller amount in the evenings. Remember to stick to your feeding and bathroom schedules!

Labs have a tendency to overeat, and eat quickly, which is why two feedings is a better idea. You can purchase special sectioned off bowls at most pet stores that make it impossible for a dog to consume their food rapidly.

Consider crating at night. Dogs will try not to eliminate in confined places, or where they sleep, making the dog crate a very useful potty training tool! 

Finally, take your boy in for a checkup, and explain the situation to your veterinarian. I’m about 90% confident you aren’t dealing with a medical issue, but it’s always wise to be positive.

Q&A: Why has my dog stopped using the doggy door?

My dog is about a year and a half old and has just recently in the last few weeks started peeing around the house. We have a doggie door, he knows how to use it, he has been using it for months so I’m not sure what is causing him to pee inside again when he has been potty trained for about a year now. Want to know if there are any tips or tricks to get him to stop doing this! Thank you! ~Alexis

Hello Alexis, I believe I can offer some insight!

Solution One
This is pretty straightforward. Rather than explain the process, I’m going to refer you to a fantastic article on Potty Training. You can do further research, but the training principles are generally the same across the board with most professional trainers. As long as you adhere to these guidelines, you shouldn’t have any problems!

But you said your dog is already trained, meaning there may be something else at work here. You may also simply need to reinforce training.

The goal would be the same as before. You need to give your dog a reason to want to make the effort to go potty outside, rather than just anywhere.

Solution Two
You didn’t name the breed, but certain toy breeds can be notoriously difficult to potty train. Also, dogs sometimes urinate out of excitement or anxiety. Did anything change recently about your living environment? If so, this might be the cause.

Solution Three
Intact males, or females, will often mark in order to leave scent identifiers for other dogs to pick up on. Again, if someone or something new has recently entered your family environment…

Solution Four
There may be a medical concern behind your pup’s urination problems. It would be a good idea to take him you see your vet for a checkup.

Q&A: How to deal with house guest’s dog?

My brother and his dog (7 yr old male part Chihuahua, part Maltese, part Yorkie) are currently living with me. Mostly this has gone well but sometimes the dog bites me and not in a playful way. Once was when I was trying to take off his leash, so I just stopped taking off his leash. At least two of the times now have been when the dog is sitting on my lap and does not want to get up and I do. I’m wondering what to do about this, and how to interact with the dog after it happens. Should I not let him on my lap anymore? Are there things that I can change to make this less likely to happen? Thanks, Rai

Ironically, many people think Pitbulls or Rottweilers are the most aggressive breeds overall, but that is far from the truth. Time and time again, smaller breeds like the ones you mentioned score as some of the lowest on the ATTS Temperament Test, whereas the ‘Bully Breeds’ that have such a negative reputation actually score quite high. This is often a combination of poor genetics, poor breeding practices, and lack of training when the dog is young.

If the pup learns he can get the desired result by biting, he’ll continue to bite. You can do a few things here to avoid that.

1. Visit the veterinarian, just in case, to rule out any pain or discomfort that might cause the dog to react when you move. This does happen more often than you might think.

2. Ignore the dog, don’t acknowledge this seeking behavior. Act like the dog is a ghost or not actually present during these times.

3. Distract the pup with a toy, treat, or something he likes. This will cure the immediate issue, but may not help with the long term problem.

4. Hierarchy. I don’t like to recommend ‘Alpha’ behavior or establishing dominance; 90% of the time that is actually the opposite of what you want to do (despite what you may have heard). But, Chihuahuas sometimes can mistake themselves for the ‘leader’ of the house, of more important than other members, which might be contributing to your problem. This happens with other breeds on occasion too, but it is rarer with a positive upbringing and good environment.

Not to say your environment raising the little one wasn’t good; small breeds sometimes don’t ‘adjust’ in the same manner as larger dogs.

5. I have read many times that Chihuahuas lack the ability to perceive size, which perfectly explains their lack of caution. I can’t tell you for 100% that is true, but it is a supported theory. Your mix may suffer from this issue. To deal, you may want to use a more assertive manner.

Body Language
This is probably the largest suggestion I have. Body language is important; dogs read ours very well. Act assertive, don’t flinch, and try to give off an air of authority. Don’t be aggressive, but try to act confident, like the little one doesn’t bother you at all.

If you need to take extreme measures, I would suggest talking with your veterinarian, or the dog’s vet, about mood altering medication (before re-homing becomes an option). The vet will also rule out any possible medical issue, pain or discomfort that could be causing this behavior.

Q&A: How to deal with an aggressive small dog?

dog-jumpingMy dog (4yrs, pit terrier- about 45 pounds) came from a large yard to a town-home community late last year. She’s acclimated fairly well to the leash/harness and it’s training after some struggles.

We have a neighboring home that has two dogs — a larger pit bull type and a tiny toysized dog. This neighbor frequently lets his tiny dog roam (without the owner being around) and has shown aggression to not only my dog but me as well when we encounter each other.

When I’m lucky enough to see the tiny dog in advance, I try to pick up mine for her safety. However, there are times Dixie struggles down and attempts to protect me before I get her away from the situation as quickly as possible. After these encounters, my dog is very mopey and disinterested in her toys or even sitting next to us on the couch. The welfare of my dog is my highest priority. How do I handle this in the future when I encounter this dog on one of our walks? ~Cassandra

Hello! I love all subjects related to dog socialization, because I think it is a very important subject. Let’s see if I can help you!

So, first of all, though I love all dogs and try to understand their behavior no matter the breed, I honestly can’t think of a single toy breed off hand that was solely bred for its intelligence. In fact, many experts say some small breeds aren’t able to perceive size, so don’t actually understand the danger they put themselves in.

On top of poor breeding practices, many owners of these small breeds (Chihuahuas are notorious) never bother to try to socialize their dogs at a young age. I can easily see exactly what you are talking about; I’ve both seen personally and heard many stories of these smaller dogs running right up on animals 30 times their size and acting very aggressive. Understand this isn’t ultimately the small dog’s fault; it should have been the owner’s responsibility to socialize their pet, or control it if they can’t.

What You Can Do
You probably can’t control how this small dog acts, since he isn’t yours. If I had this problem, I wouldn’t think twice about talking to the owner. Be polite and courteous about the situation, no matter how furious your neighbor’s lack of responsibility makes you, because that way your neighbor is most likely to listen to what you have to say.

Ask your neighbor to please keep their dog off of your property.
You might suggest having a fence installed. 3-4 ft. chicken wire is all that is needed for most toy breeds, and not that expensive.
Politely explain the danger the neighbor’s dog places himself in by confronting other dogs.
If nothing else works, you might threaten to contact animal control. This should get your neighbor to step up. Though this may mean the smaller dog ends up being sheltered, it is preferable to death. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. This way, you also have a record of having contacted animal control, if you ever do end up facing legal matters.

No pet owner should simply let their dogs roam around un-restricted; that is very irresponsible! Other animals aside, what if they get hit by a car? What if they end up chasing other animals and run off? What kind of pet owner allows their dogs to roam free with so many possibly dangerous outcomes?

Your Dog
If these two dogs end up fighting physically, my worry for you would be about the legal repercussions you and your pet may face if your mix ends up killing the smaller dog. Look up the laws and pet regulations in your district. Be sure you are prepared if your fears do come true, and capable of handling the outcomes. You also have to worry about your neighbor’s larger dog reacting in defense of the smaller.

Next time you see your vet, try asking for advice. Also, make sure your dog is updated on all vaccinations so she doesn’t end up contracting anything from these other two. If your dog is leash reactive around these other two, there are good YouTube videos available for free on how to handle the situation.

In the End
You can’t ultimately control what your neighbors do, and can’t be responsible for their dogs too. But you can prepare yourself to handle any outcome you might face. Try to be extra vigilant on your walks, and avoid that area or walk the other direction if you need. ~Cassandra

Q&A: Help! My dog is now barking at children!

teach-your-dog-to-sitI have a one year old boxer/red heeler mix named Abby. We’ve had her since she was three months old. At four months we started taking her to the dog park daily and she never showed any fear of adults or kids. As she got older, around 8 or 9 months, she started barking out the windows when people walked by, but nothing too severe. She is now a year old and we’ve recently moved. Her barking inside the house got much worse after moving, but with training it is slowly improving. Where she used to bark once or twice but then greet strangers at the door, we now make her go to her crate when someone knocks at the door because she is so insistent with her barking.

The real problem, though, is that she now barks at kids. A few times people have brought their kids to the dog park and Abby goes nuts. She won’t get too close to them, but runs a circle around them, barking so fast it becomes a howl, almost like she is baying at them. She never barks at adults or dogs outside our home, and inside the home she is never so amped up that I can’t get her attention with treats, but when she sees a kid, she won’t listen to commands or pay attention to treats. I know the obvious answer is to carefully desensitize her to kids over time, but we don’t have kids or know anyone who does. Having just moved, we hardly know anyone at all. She only rarely runs into kids when they come to the dog park. I’m afraid though that if she continues to go without socialization with kids, her fear will get worse and eventually turn into aggression. ~Lisa Taylor

This behavior could be partially due to your pup’s instincts. Australian Cattle Dogs (Red Heelers) are very energetic dogs, known to sometimes ‘nip’ at or try to herd family members in some direction. To several herding breeds, in fact, the line between children and small animals can sometimes blur a bit. Without observing, if I had to guess, I would say this might be impacting your little one’s behavior.

Others might say your dog may have developed some sort of anxiety related to children, but I would lean toward the above explanation a bit more.

As far as barking as strangers walk by or knock at your door, that is very natural behavior for many breeds, but especially one bred to herd with a known protective instinct. You mentioned ‘fear’; are you sure it is fear she has toward other children?
It’s impressive that you mentioned desensitization. That’s exactly what I would suggest, or at least slow socialization. So, you don’t have any relatives or friends with kids, but you could try:

Signing up for ‘obedience’ classes. I personally think they are better for building social skills than anything obedience related, but they do teach a few useful skills.

Talk to neighbors. Ask your neighbors to hand your dog a treat that you give them on your dog walks. This will help teach your pup strangers (or kids) aren’t a threat to fear.

Building Social Skills: I don’t know of any other way to adapt a dog to new situations, people, and kids without introducing and socializing them with kids. Socialization is actually one of the most important things you’ll ever train into any dog. It’s important to start this as early as possible! At one, your pup is nearing adulthood; you don’t have a lot of time left before this becomes a more difficult process. At most dog parks, there is an area for small dogs, and an area for larger dogs. You could try the small one so your dog is easier to get ahold of, and purchasing a harness with ‘don’t pet’ signed on it. For your walks, ‘Gentle Leaders’ are good training tools to discourage pulling.

Q&A: How do we get our dog ready for our RV lifestyle?

sad-dogWe have a 7 y/o Pyrador, altered male, lots of energy, super-guardian, barks at cars going by and intruders; has bitten one intruder (a friend he didn’t know;) and he doesn’t like men as much as women. In the next 6-9 months, we are taking him away from 3 rural acres (we currently live in the country bordering a national forest) where he can run to his heart’s desire. We are moving into a 5th-wheel RV while we tour the nation for our retirement. He will have to be on a leash or lead at all times and will have strangers around him at all time (whom he will bark his head off at). How do we make this drastic change in his lifestyle? We are healthy owners and plan to walk him often, but we know the barking and restraint will be a problem.  Thank you, Kyla F.

So- think of the breeds that went into your mix. Labs are normally considered fairly docile and people oriented, but the Great Pyrenees is a different story. This is a powerful breed conceived with a very protective instinct, and are known to bark at just about everything. It’s not his fault at all, just the purpose for which he was bred.

It sounds to me the most important thing you need to consider is working on social skills, especially if he is aggressive toward strangers right now. I’m sorry to say, at 7 years old, that is not going to be easy. Dogs are most receptive to new experiences and welcome new encounters during puppyhood, specifically 12-16 months. It can be much harder to socialize a grown adult. It’s not his fault at all; even if he is fantastically social, this is a breed that will bark at unfamiliar things encroaching his territory.

You can try rewarding him for allowing strangers to approach, asking strangers to hand him treats, etc. Show him strangers aren’t a threat. You can contact a certified animal behaviorist if you have the money to afford one (be sure he is an actual certified behaviorist, and not just a trainer), which could offer one on one help.

If you are going to be around kids or other strangers are likely to approach while you’re away, I would certainly suggest keeping him inside as opposed to outside on the leash.

Consider a body harness with a sign, something like ‘don’t approach, or ‘do not pet’. I’m sure you’ve seen the harnesses that service dogs wear, with signs alerting strangers not to pet? Don’t go with those exact colors, but something that stands out.

Try this Training Method:
When your dog is barking, say “Quiet” in a calm (don’t show any emotion), firm voice. Wait until he stops barking, even if it’s just to take a breath, then praise him and give him a treat. Just be careful to never reward him while he’s barking. Eventually he will figure out that if he stops barking at the word “quiet” he gets a treat (and make it a delicious treat, such as cheese or chicken, to make it worth more than the barking.)

You might consider investing in a ‘bark’ collar. Not all ‘shock’ or jolt your pup; many of the new ones will offer a sound and vibration correction as well. You can also talk to your vet concerning mood altering medications, such as those used to treat excess anxiety or depression in dogs. Anxious dogs will often bark more.

As far as strangers entering your area or home while you are away, this is what GP’s were bred to prevent (as far as animals/predators) and it would be natural for your dog to show aggression. You might want to check the laws in the area you will be in regarding dogs, and prepare accordingly; not all will side with the homeowner (though it does seem ridiculous for any legal system to support an intruder).

Avoid muzzles that restrict your dog from panting, which any that prevent barking would probably do, but this could prevent dog bites.

Finally, I don’t like to suggest this and I’m sure you might cringe at the idea, but it is a preferred alternative to sheltering him. There is a surgery you can talk to your vet about that will ‘soften’ his bark.

Q&A: How do I get my dog to settle down?

My dog is a rescue that I adopted when he was 4 months old. He turned 1 year on Christmas day. He is a wonderful dog, and listens really well, usually. I even took him to puppy class at Petsmart, and he did well. The problem is when he meets new people or dogs. He LOVES everyone. But he gets so excited, he totally spazzes out. Whining and jumping on person or dog. Almost like he can’t get close enough. He stays close by my side when I am home with him. I have 4 other dogs, 3 Yorkies, and an Australian Shepard. And 3 cats. He gets along fine with all of them. Although he is a rough house player with the Aussie, and she is 4, so sometimes she doesn’t want to play as much as he does. How can I get him to settle down so I don’t have to put him in his crate when someone comes to visit? ~Sabrina 

Hello; I believe I can help shed some light!

It would help to know what breed/s went into your pup, as some breeds are higher energy than others. At least you have the social side down pat! It seems as if your little one is a bit too social.

You might try a few things. The first question most trainers will ask is- how much exercise does your little one get at home? Not enough physical stimulation might lead to outbursts like this. The reactions you describe are also often natural responses from a happy, well socialized dog, especially a highly energetic puppy, eager to play.

By acting out like that, dogs are looking for a response from others. You might also try asking company to completely ignore the dog; he should settle down once he learns his outbursts don’t get him anywhere. From the amount of pets you describe, it certainly seems like attention seeking behavior.

Without physically observing/meeting the dog, I would recommend increasing his daily exercise. Take him for walks. Play games with him. ‘Hide & Seek’, whereby you hide a toy or treat somewhere in the house and let him search for it, is a fantastically stimulating game (though you’ll need to train/teach the game first).

Puppies are high energy anyway; he (sadly) won’t always be that way! Aussies are also high energy breeds, so it is good your little one has a playful companion.